When I was a teenager in the late 90s and very early 00s, I didn’t know about social justice. The people around me weren’t reading Gloria Anzaldua or Octavia Butler or Grace Lee Boggs or Assata Shakur. I don’t remember them talking about labor rights or prison abolition or gender self-determination or class or white supremacy or the intersectionality of all these struggles.
My Appalachian Love Story is: I left.
I went west. I tried to make sense of myself in different climates, among different hills, in bigger cities with more Asians and Pacific Islanders. It was there that I became politicized within a community of queer and trans artists and activists of color.
I passed through many names and genders, all of them true.
But something was always missing. I missed the humidity, the honeysuckle, the lightning bugs. I missed these mountains.
One day I woke up and realized I’d been homesick for years and years and years.
* * *
My Appalachian Love Story is: I’m coming home.
Because “there are no QTPOC in West Virginia.”
Because my relatives say heterosexist and racist shit at dinner.
Because the drive to Kanawha State Forest is paved with Trump signs.
Because I want to organize with black and brown and indigenous and queer and trans and nonbinary people here.
Because I want to honor the Shawnee and Cherokee people and the beauty of this land and preserve it against fracking and privatization and corporate greed.
Because it’s impossible to be a queer mixed race West Virginian.
Because it is possible.
Because blood. Because healing. Because home.
I know it’s going to be hard. I know I’ll feel isolated. I know I’m not going to be able to find the brand of coconut milk I like. I know there will be times when I’ll break down and cry.
But I also know these mountains will hold me, all of me, if I listen to my ancestors and just let go.
* * *
@ STAY Project
Special thanks to Rachel Garringer for feedback on this piece.
“Hope is a Discipline” card by Monica Trinidad